Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center began to house coronavirus patients inside one of three tents on its site on April 18. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center began to house coronavirus patients inside one of three tents on its site on April 18. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

As Prince George’s County continues to lead Maryland in confirmed coronavirus cases, local hospitals prepare to expand service and treat patients.

Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center, which has 37 beds, now houses three modular tents to accommodate 10 patients each at the site. Two of the three tents, composed of corrugated metal and equipped with electricity, mini-air conditioning units and nurses’ stations, opened Saturday, April 18.

According to county data based on zip code, Fort Washington ranks among the top five areas in Prince George’s with confirmed cases.

“We’re finding future needs … to increase the beds at Fort Washington Medical Center to 120 beds to [become] a true hospital,” said Council member Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington. “We also want to get more medical physicians into the region so that we can have a great, strong front line.”

Other hospitals in the county plan on adding more beds and staff in the majority Black jurisdiction that contributes to at least 25 percent of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The virus remains personal for County Council member Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi. At least four family members in New York City have died and another 14 who reside there are being tested.

According to a John Hopkins University dashboard, New York City has recorded the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country and fifth-highest in the world.

“I haven’t been able to sleep properly. My nerves are a little on edge. Come up on me the wrong way, I may tell you what I think,” Taveras said Saturday.

She uses humor and watches comedy programs like “The Daily Show” to relax.

“I need to laugh. It’s rough out here,” she said.

On a serious note, Taveras and others highlight the pandemic has created unemployment among thousands of residents who continue to struggle financially and cannot afford necessities such as food.

That’s why civic associations and churches in her district helped provide a list of those in need not of not only food, but also face masks. Some of the residents, Taveras said, are front-line workers.

She praised Gerson Lopez, who runs Megamart Supermarket with four stores in Prince George’s, for distributing almost 5,000 bags of food. The local Latino chain provided customers with $30 store vouchers when no more bags became available.

“The reason why we have to keep feeding people is that this population has not received a dime in stimulus [or] a dime from unemployment,” said Taveras, whose district represents the largest Latino population in the county. “They have children to feed. They don’t have the luxury of being able to telecommute or telework like many of us do. The need in our community is clearly evident.”

As of Saturday, the county’s dashboard showed nearly 3,300 cases and 121 deaths. However, the state Department of Health noted 3,160 and 85 deaths.

Despite the slight difference in data, hospital officials told County Council, sitting as the Board of Health, during a briefing last week the county will continue to see a surge in patients.

Min Goodwin, chief operating officer for University of Maryland Capital Region Health, said the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly would need 287 more beds by Saturday, April 25. It currently has 385.

By Thursday, April 23, she said, about 90 more beds will be needed when the Laurel Medical Center reopens.

Paul Grenaldo, president of Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, said 50 percent of the patients at the more than 200-bed hospital are coronavirus related. The hospital has 24 critical-care beds, but 36 are still needed.

Although another 51 were added last week at the closed Magnolia Nursing Home next door, Grenaldo said tents have been set up outside the hospital because of the patient surge in Prince George’s.

“We’re the eye of the storm … based on what the models are showing us,” he said. “We’re going to continue to need access to PPE. We’re going to continue to need access to staff. Right now I’m only staffed for my 200 beds, but if I go to 500 beds, then I don’t have all those nurses here. That’s where the real crisis will come. I don’t have a place for everybody.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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